Title: Perchance to Dream

Author: Janine

Fandom: Princess Series – Jim C. Hines

Pairing: Talia/Gerta

Rating: R

Summary: Talia and Gerta spend some quality time alone together.

xxx

Gerta pressed her lips against Talia's stomach, sighing contently at the feel of warm flesh and salty taste of dark skin, glistening with a fine sheen of sweat. Talia's stomach rose and fell more rapidly than usual as she recovered from her orgasm and Gerta smiled happily and a bit smugly as she curled herself around Talia.

"One of these days you're going to kill me," Talia panted, smiling happily as she angled her head to the side so that she could see Gerta's face.

"At least you'll go happy," Gerta replied, grinning at Talia before she leaned forward and brought their lips together in a sweet kiss that had Talia sighing contently into her mouth. "Besides, considering the ways you can move your body, if one of us is in danger of being struck down by lethal sexuality it's me."

"I thought you liked the way I move my body," Talia murmured playfully as she reached out for Gerta and gently brushed some unruly strands of red hair off of her face and behind her ear.

Gerta groaned as a new wave of desire washed over at the sound of Talia's words. She did like the way Talia moved her body. She often liked it multiple times in one night. The positions Talia could work them into and the things she could make Gerta feel once she was in place were incredible. Once when Gerta and Danielle had indulged in too much wine one night, Danielle had asked her if Talia's fairy gifts had applications besides fighting, and Gerta's skin had turned almost as red as hair and she'd had to hide her face from Danielle in embarrassment as all manner of explicit memories of Talia and her fairy gifts flooded her mind.

"You know I do," Gerta responded out loud, running her hand up Talia's side as she spoke. "But if you demonstrate any more of your moves for me tonight I'm not going to be able to walk in the morning."

"So we'll stay in bed," Talia said grinning wolfishly, nuzzling Gerta's neck for a few seconds before she began to kiss her way down her chest.

"That sounds like a great plan, if you don't mind explaining to Danielle why I can't attend the meeting with Febblekeck. I'm sure she'll be very understanding. You know how much she loves Febblekeck," Gerta continued as Talia moaned piteously against her skin and then drew her face back from between Gerta's breasts.

"It's your loss," Talia muttered with a teasing petulance as she settled back down beside Gerta on the mattress.

"The sacrifices I make for this nation," Gerta sighed as if burdened by a great weight.

"Danielle should pay us better," Talia breathed out, a gentle smile touching her lips when Gerta reached out for her and tangled twined their fingers together.

"Danielle pays you?" Gerta asked and Talia lips curved up into an even bigger smile as she laughed. "Seriously, does she pay you?" Gerta asked again when Talia calmed down, but repeating the question just sent Talia into another fit of giggles.

"There's the monthly allowance," Talia finally managed to get out, and Gerta nodded. She knew about that. It's how she was able to purchase a couple bottles of Arathean wine for Talia every month when the ships from the south came to Lorindar. Not to mention buying new books for the library and some special articles of clothing that were for Talia's eyes alone. "But Beatrice also set up trusts which Danielle has kept set aside. Snow's has been transferred into your name," Talia continued, sobering a little at the mention of Snow's name. "So, if one day we ever decide to run off to Morova or Tyberus together we'll have plenty of money."

"Morova?" Gerta asked making a face. "You can go to Morova by yourself."

Talia smirked at her. "What, you don't love me enough to run away to Morova with me?" she asked.

Gerta stuck out her tongue at Talia. That question wasn't playing fair.

"Fine," Gerta sighed, not willing to even joke about not loving Talia enough to do anything in her power to be with her. "I'll move to Morova with you. But I'm going to be grumpy," she warned.

"Tyberus it is then," Talia replied smiling. "I'd rather fight Persite giant sand worms than deal with you when you're grumpy," she continued, laughing when Gerta glared at her and then angling her body away when Gerta reached out to smack her.

"You're lucky you're cute and good in bed," Gerta sighed, giving up on trying to smack Talia. Even as close as they were lying on the bed together Talia's reflexes kept her from being able to make contact.

"Shouldn't it be the other way around?" Talia asked innocently looking over at Gerta and Gerta couldn't stop herself from smiling. "I'm at a similar disadvantage, you know," Talia continued softly a few seconds later. "I can't deny you anything," she whispered, stroking Gerta's cheek tenderly with her thumb. "You could take terrible advantage of me," she finished softly.

"I promise you'd enjoy it," Gerta breathed out before leaning in to bring their lips together again.

As they kissed Gerta's hand drifted down Talia's side and her fingers began to stroke the slightly raised pale lines of skin that lay just above her hip.

"Don't," Talia breathed out into Gerta's mouth, breaking the kiss as she reached down to draw Gerta's hand higher, away from the stretch marks that marred the otherwise perfect skin of her abdomen.

"Why?" Gerta asked softly, and Talia sighed and pulled back from her settling on her back on the mattress beside Gerta. "Talia," Gerta began carefully.

"They're ugly," Talia muttered tersely, more tersely than she intended, as she stared up at the ceiling.

"They're not ugly," Gerta said gently, "nothing that's a part of you could ever be ugly."

Talia winced and whispered, "I wish they weren't a part of me."

It wasn't vanity. Despite the fact that she was generally considered to be very attractive, Talia wasn't vain or especially concerned with her looks. There were scars on other parts of her body that didn't bother her, but the marks on her sides … they were a reminder of something she wished that she could forget. They were a reminder of how she had been violated and of the products of that violation that lived on in Arathea and would one day take the throne that by rights should have been hers. They were a reminder of everything that she had lost and all that she had suffered.

"I know," Gerta whispered, "so do I. But we shouldn't pretend that they don't exist," she continued, moving her hand back down to where it had been before, though this time she simply lay her hand over the marks that Talia so detested instead of stroking them.

Talia sighed deeply and closed her eyes. "Why would you even want to …" she began helplessly before pausing to gather her thoughts and rein in her emotions. "Why would you want to remind yourself how damaged I am by touching them?"

Gerta shifted, positioning herself on the mattress so that she was able to look down at Talia.

"Look at me," Gerta requested softly.

Talia kept her eyes shut, feeling too raw at the moment to face anyone, even Gerta.

"Talia," Gerta breathed out, touching Talia's cheek lightly. "Baby, please," she continued, her voice cracking softly. "Look at me."

Talia sighed deeply. She really didn't want to open her eyes, but she could hear the concern in Gerta's voice and she couldn't knowingly add to it. She couldn't hurt Gerta that way when all that the redhead wanted to do was help her.

Talia opened her eyes.

"I love you. All of you," Gerta told her as she looked down into Talia's eyes. "Don't ever think that what that man did to you diminishes you in any way," she continued and Talia closed her eyes again against the tears that began to build in them.

"These aren't a sign of damage," Gerta whispered fiercely, touching the pale bands of skin again. "They're battle wounds. What you've survived would have destroyed a lesser person, but here you are … alive, and strong, and brave, and so very beautiful inside and out. They aren't a sign of damage," Gerta repeated, blinking back the tears that were forming her own eyes, "they're a badge of strength. Your strength, not what comes from your fairy gifts or Roudette's cloak, but what comes from inside of you, from your very soul, the strength to survive, and rebuild, and love again after suffering such catastrophic loss. You're not damaged Talia … you're amazing."

As Talia looked up at Gerta she lost the battle she had been fighting against her tears and thin trails of moisture began to leak from the corners of her eyes. She tried to get control of herself, but Gerta's voice was in her ears telling her it was okay, and Gerta's lips were on her skin, kissing her cheeks with such love, and it was all too much for Talia and she couldn't stop the tears from coming.

Talia rolled into Gerta's body and Gerta took her into her arms and held her as Talia buried her face in the warm nook of Gerta's neck, trusting Gerta to take care of her.

When Talia thought about what Jihab had done to her anger was always the emotion she was most aware of experiencing, but Gerta words made her realize that there had been shame inside of her as well, lurking on the periphery of her rage. She hadn't had a word for the emotion that choked her sometimes, making it difficult to breathe, but she knew now that shame is what it was. What happened wasn't her fault. The cursed sleep she had been in for a hundred years had left her completely helpless. There was nothing that she could have done to stop Jihab from raping her, but knowing that didn't stop her from feeling dirty. Her innocence didn't free her from feeling like she was tainted by his actions, forever damaged goods. She had never been fully conscious of these feelings, but Gerta's words had unlocked some deep store of emotion inside of Talia, soothing aches she hadn't realized existed.

"I'm sorry," Talia murmured sometime later, sniffling as her tears finally began to abate her mind began to clear.

"Don't apologize," Gerta whispered, stroking her hair, "You needed it."

Talia made a grumbling sound in her throat but she didn't disagree with Gerta and she wrapped her arms more tightly around her.

"You're all wet," Talia mumbled a minute later as she became aware of the fact that Gerta's neck and chest were damp with her tears.

"You have that effect on me," Gerta breathed out, smiling down at Talia when Talia angled her head up at her, and despite the fact that minutes before she had been wrecked with emotion, Talia found herself smiling back at Gerta.

As they regarded each other Talia's eyelashes fluttered and a second later her lips parted as she released an adorably large yawn.

"You look tired," Gerta said as she reached out to stroke Talia's cheek.

"I feel tired," Talia whispered sounding more than a little bewildered.

Over the years there were times when she felt exhausted, when she needed find a private, quiet place to sit down or lay down and relax. At those times she would slow down her breathing and clear her mind to calm herself. She would stay in a state like that, mediating for few minutes or a few hours depending on her need, and when she opened her eyes again and she stood up the tiredness was always gone.

She had always suspected that if she tried to go to sleep that she could have, but the few times she had fallen asleep after she had awoken from her cursed sleep had resulted in her reliving waking up in a pool of her own blood to the screams of infants and she had always ended up jerking awake tangled in bed-sheets and covered in sweat as she screamed. Needless to say sleeping hadn't been restful and so when she had discovered that she could avoid asleep through meditation she had stuck exclusively to that.

The tiredness she was feeling presently was different than it had been over the years since she'd awoken from the curse however. Her limbs normally didn't feel weak and she didn't have to fight to keep her eyes open. Usually her mind just got a little sluggish and her movements became a little less precise and she knew that it was time to set aside an hour and rejuvenate. This time she really felt tired, this time she felt like her eyes were in danger of closing and like she might actually fall asleep.

"Hey," Gerta said soothingly when Talia's eyes widened and her breathing picked up.

She cupped Talia's jaw in her hand and smoothed her thumb over Talia's cheek, trying to calm her down.

"It's okay," she continued gently. "I know you don't like to do it, but sleep is nothing to be scared of."

"Maybe not for other people," Talia said, shivering as she remembered waking up cold, shivering and clammy, her throat raw from screaming. "But I'd rather fight a kraken."

"When was the last time you slept?" Gerta asked curiously.

She'd never seen Talia sleep and she'd known Talia for almost a year, and had been sharing a room and a bed with her for months.

"Maybe eight years ago," Talia replied, smiling a little at the aghast look that came onto Gerta's face. "It's hard to remember exactly, but I stopped sleeping pretty soon after I woke up from the curse."

"Have you tried …"

"No," Talia interjected knowing what Gerta was going to ask. "Why would I when it was such a relief to realize that I could function without sleeping." Gerta looked at her questioningly and Talia sighed. "Nightmares," Talia murmured shuddering. "I used to be a wreck for hours after waking up. It's better this way. Trust me."

"But … don't you ever get bored?" Gerta asked.

Talia almost always lay with her at night until she fell asleep, but when Gerta woke up during the night she always found the other side of the bed empty. She wasn't upset about that, it would have been ridiculous to expect Talia to lay beside her doing nothing for eight hours every night, but she did often wonder what it was that Talia got up to. She often wondered how Talia passed the hours, night after night after night after night while the rest of the kingdom slept.

"I've learned how to occupy myself," Talia replied shrugging lightly.

There were some nights where she went a little stir crazy, but for the most part she was able to find things to do. Jakob's birth had helped in that regard. The young prince often woke up in the night and Talia enjoyed looking in on him and keeping him company until he fell asleep again. She did sometimes envy the rest of the world their hours of unconscious bliss, but then she remembered that she'd had a hundred years of uninterrupted sleep and what had happened to her and her family as a result of it, and she got over any covetous feelings seeing Gerta, or Danielle or Jakob peacefully sleeping inspired.

"It would be nice to wake up in your arms," Gerta said thoughtfully as she drew her finger over Talia's skin in lazy patterns.

"You do," Talia replied.

Though she left Gerta sleeping to wander the hallways at night, she almost always returned their bed before Gerta woke up.

"Yeah, but I meant …" Gerta sighed and glared at Talia for a moment before trying again. "Would you try?" Gerta asked a few seconds later. "Sleeping? Here with me?"

Talia's body tensed but before she could say anything Gerta continued.

"I'm not asking you to promise to sleep every night. I just … I think you should try it," she continued carefully. "It's been a very long time since you last slept and it may be different now. I mean, I'm here," she said lacing their fingers together again. "Maybe I'll bring you sweet dreams."

Talia opened her mouth to turn down the request, but Gerta looked so hopeful that she stopped herself. Every part of her wanted to reject the idea of sleep because her memories of it in this new time were so awful, but Gerta was right. It had been a long time since she had slept and if it were possible for her to have good dreams this was the time in her life when she would have them, surrounded by friends and in the arms of a woman who loved her.

When she was a child, she had loved to sleep late into the day. She and her siblings had sometimes had competitions to see who could sleep the latest before their mother barged into their rooms and chased them out of bed. She liked the idea of recapturing a bit of that, of taking back something from her previous life that had been a source of joy to her. The idea of her eyes fluttering open in the morning and Gerta's face greeting her also greatly appealed to Talia. Not mention that no longer having to invent ways to fill the hours of the night held a certain appeal.

"Okay," Talia breathed out, shifting closer to Gerta on the mattress as she squeezed her fingers. "I'll try. But if … if it's like before … I'm going to keep staying awake."

"That's all I can ask," Gerta replied before leaning forward to press a kiss to Talia's cheek.

Talia released a crotchety sound from her throat and shifted uncomfortably on the mattress when Gerta pulled back.

"Let's get this over with then," she said gruffly, trying to wrestle down the fear that was gnawing at her insides, making her stomach clench and her palms sweat.

"Just relax," Gerta said soothingly.

"Hard to," Talia muttered as she tried to force tense muscles to loosen which only made them tense up even more.

Gerta was quiet for a moment as she thought about what to do, then a large smile touched her lips.

"What?" Talia asked warily.

"I can think of a way to relax you," Gerta replied huskily as she allowed her eyes to trail down what she could see of Talia's body.

"I thought you had a very important meeting with Danielle and Febblekeck in the morning that you had to be well rested for," Talia replied, though her limbs were ready relaxing at the mere suggestion of having Gerta's hands on her again.

"I was talking about you exhausting me, not me exhausting you," Gerta replied smirking. "You don't have a meeting in the morning so it's perfectly fine for me to have my way with you. You can stay in bed all day if you want."

"If you're expecting me to object I'm not going to," Talia replied grinning. "I like this plan."

"Aw," Gerta moaned playfully. "And I'd come up with such a good way to shut you up."

"Do it anyway," Talia suggested, chewing on her bottom lip anxiously.

"I like that plan," Gerta replied with a smile.

Still smiling, Gerta leaned and captured Talia's lips in a lingering kiss that left Talia panting then she began to kiss her way down Talia's chest towards other fun places to put her mouth.

The End